Identification of a locus involved in the utilization of iron by Haemophilus influenzae

J. D. Sanders, L. D. Cope, E. J. Hansen

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71 Scopus citations


Haemophilus influenzae has an absolute requirement for heme for aerobic growth. This organism can satisfy this requirement by synthesizing heme from iron and protoporphyrin IX (PPIX). H. influenzae type b (Hib) strain DL42 was found to be unable to form single colonies when grown on a medium containing free iron and PPIX in place of heme. In contrast, the nontypeable H. influenzae (NTHI) strain TN106 grew readily on the same medium. A genomic library from NTHI strain TN106 was used to transform Hib strain DL42, and recombinants were selected on a medium containing iron and PPIX in place of heme. A recombinant plasmid with an 11.5-kb NTHI DNA insert was shown to confer on Hib strain DL42 the ability to grow on iron and PPIX. Nucleotide sequence analysis revealed that this NTHI DNA insert contained three genes, designated hitA, hitB, and hitC, which encoded products similar to the SfuABC proteins of Serratia marcescens, which have been shown to constitute a periplasmic binding protein-dependent iron transport system in this enteric organism. The NTHI HitA protein also was 69% identical to the ferric-binding protein of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Inactivation of the cloned NTHI hitC gene by insertion of an antibiotic resistance cartridge eliminated the ability of the recombinant plasmid to complement the growth deficiency of Hib DL42. Construction of an isogenic NTHI TN106 mutant lacking a functional hitC gene revealed that this mutation prevented this strain from growing on a medium containing iron and PPIX in place of heme. This NTHI hitC mutant was also unable to utilize either iron bound to transferrin or iron chelates. These results suggest that the products encoded by the hitABC genes are essential for the utilization of iron by NTHI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4515-4525
Number of pages11
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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